Is Yoga Therapy Training Your Next Step?

Are you a yoga teacher wondering what’s next? Do you feel as if you’ve reached a plateau in your teaching career? Are you inspired by the idea of making a positive impact in settings, such as health care, mental health, and social service agencies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider the field of yoga therapy. If you have a 200-hour yoga teacher certificate you are qualified to take the next step into yoga therapy training.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) defines a yoga therapist as “a well-trained and experienced yoga teacher with additional training in therapeutic applications.” Yoga therapists use the principles and practices of yoga to promote health and well-being. They work with individuals or small groups to provide personalized assessment, goal setting, lifestyle management and yoga practices.” Along with those concrete skills, a yoga therapist also develops what I call Jedi senses—the ability to intuit what a client needs by listening not just with your ears but also with your heart and all your senses.

I spoke with several Kripalu-certified yoga therapists to learn what inspired them to take the leap. Here are a few of their stories, which illustrate four of the most common reasons why yoga teachers choose to take the leap into yoga therapy training.

Yoga therapy gives you multiple opportunities to create practices tailored for the individual.

 While this is something yoga teachers who work with individual clients also do, yoga therapy gives you even more tools for understanding a person’s constitution, temperament, and history, and creating yoga protocols to meet their unique needs.

“After learning about Ayurveda and teaching hundreds of group yoga classes at Kripalu, I knew that yoga was not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ endeavor,” Janna says. “I felt compelled to work with students on a one-on-one basis so I could tailor the techniques and practices to support them in finding balance and well-being. Clients often progress with more ease when instruction is individualized and designed to address their specific imbalances. I find this way of working to be very inspiring.”

Becoming a yoga therapist can reinvigorate your career.

Jennifer Reis had been teaching yoga for many years and had a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga certification under her belt when she decided to pursue yoga therapy back in 2009. “Although I had a lot of training and a steady personal practice, somehow teaching yoga became flat for me,” she recalls. She considered switching careers, and even did a semester of graduate school in fine arts. But she couldn’t let yoga go, so she went back to yoga school.

“Integrative Yoga Therapy changed my life and my career,” Jennifer says now. “I learned that there is so much more to yoga, and gained a whole community that was new to me. Teaching yoga became joyful for me once again. Now I have so many more tools to bring into my classes, teacher trainings, and private sessions. Integrative Yoga Therapy offers tremendous depth and variety.”

Yoga therapy allows you to specialize in the areas that inspire you.

As a yoga therapist, you can carve out your own niche and pursue what interests you most—whether it’s working with specific populations, like kids or seniors; focusing on certain facets of yoga therapy, such as mudras or pranayama; or addressing particular health conditions, from digestion to chronic pain to anxiety.

Ellen Schaeffer was drawn to yoga therapy because she resonated deeply with yoga psychology and with yoga as a path for personal growth and transformation. “I wanted to learn more about how to use the tools of yoga in the most effective way,” she says. “If you feel a longing to better understand the diverse application of all the tools of yoga, you have a calling to yoga therapy.”

Kripalu School of Yoga Therapy faculty member Tam Terry had a similar experience. "I taught yoga for fourteen years and developed a special focus in restorative yoga, which attracted many students with therapeutic concerns.  This led to work on an interdisciplinary team within a health care setting.  I encountered clients with an increasingly wide variety of needs including joint replacement, diabetes, cardiac rehabilitation and cancer which made me realize I needed to seek more training and a protocol that would support students on their healing journey.  My training at Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy provided me with a framework for intake and assessment that facilitates collaboration with clients and interdisciplinary team members on their plan of care and a myriad of tools to support their wellness objectives. For me, there is nothing more fulfilling than aiding a person who wishes to participate in their own well-being, regardless of their diagnosis or ability. The Kripalu School of Integrative yoga Therapy gave me the tools and confidence to do so."

If you’re drawn to healing work, yoga therapy offers a powerful pathway.

For those who have had deep personal experiences of yoga’s healing power, sharing it with others feels like a natural next step. 

“Once I understood the role that yoga could play in my own healing process, I was hooked,” says Beth Gibbs. “Then, when I understood the difference between yoga and yoga therapy and felt grounded in the process and techniques, I was ready to do the work and get certified. The key for me was my own healing.”

Is yoga therapy your next step? Find out more.

Mary Northey, C-IAYT, director of the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy, has a yoga therapy practice in her hometown and brings yoga therapy to populations in need.

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